New York Music Daily

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Tag: white hassle

The Sideshow Tragedy Amp Up Their Uneasy, Ferocious Punk Blues

Austin duo the Sideshow Tragedy’s 2015 album Capital was “a sinister, brilliantly metaphorical portrait of a nation gone off the rails in an orgy of greed and mass desperation,” as this blog described it at the time. Since the fateful 2016 election, it’s only taken on more relevance. The band’s new album, The View From Nowhere is streaming at Bandcamp. The music is heavier and more corrosively enveloping than the band’s earlier material, while the lyrics are surprisingly more spare, hip hop-influenced and surprisingly hopeful. The duo of guitarist Nathan Singleton and drummer Jeremy Harrell are making a relatively rare New York stop tomorrow night, June 21 at 10:30 PM at the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel, 530 W 27th St. between 10th/11th Aves on the south side of the street. Watch for the little red light; admission is free.

As the duo build to an impressibly hefty Some Girls-era Rolling Stones groove in the album’s opening cut, Lost Time, Singleton sets the tone for what’s to come:

What does it mean to forgive
What would it cost live under the weight of memory
My body gives out underneath

The songs, and much of the rest of the album, strongly bring to mind Marcellus Hall’s great bassless 90s New York trio White Hassle.

Piston Blues is a showcase for Singleton’s snarling, serpentine blues hammer-ons. Trust has a funky lowrider slink that the duo build to a catchy, hypnotic riff-rock groove, with welcome, defiant optimism. Nobody, a mashup of 70s Stones and the Gun Club, has a cynical “I’ll get mine come hell or high water” message. “There’s nobody out on the road tonight, just me and my  memories looking for a fight,” Singleton intones bitterly. 

The band keep the hard funk going in Time to Taste, with a haggard, screechy sax break. Singleton’s enigmatically shifting open chords fuel Afraid to Fall: “I’m painting the future as a masterpiece, screaming my lungs out in the belly of the beast,” he rails. It’s the most darkly funny and lyrically complex tune here.

The epically shuffling Long Time Coming has a guarded optimism, Harrell’s gunshot accents under Singleton’s fire-and-brimstone imagery. For Your Love – an original, not the Yardbirds hit – is the most ornate track here, Singleton’s lingering guitar multitracks over Harrell’s steady stomp. The album winds up with pensive, mutedly Dylanesque title track: “Can’t look anybody in the eye, can’t suspend my disbelief,” Singleton muses. It’s a change of pace for the band: while the album doesn’t have the previous album’s visceral, apocalyptic impact, the guitar here is no less assaultively tasty. 

Keeping Tabs on Gringo Star

Gringo Star‘s previous album Floating Out to See put a wry, lo-fi newschool stamp on classic 60s psychedelia and garage rock. This time out, their new album The Sides and In Between – soon to be streaming at Bandcamp  – goes deeper into the past and has a welcome gravitas. While several of the songs are darker, the rest are funnier than the more upbeat stuff on the band’s previous effort, spiced with plenty of woozy 60s guitar and keyboard effects. They’ve got a couple of New York dates coming up; on August 19 at around 9, they’re at Shea Stadium for $12. The following night at 9 they’re at Cake Shop for two bucks less. Ever think you’d live to see the day when a Bushwick show was more expensive than one in Manhattan?

The new album’s opening track, Rotten blends tongue-in-cheek psychedelic soul in the same vein as Clear Plastic Masks or White Denim with tinny, organ-fueled Sergeant Pepper-era Beatles. It’s a dis at a spoiled rich brat. Track two, Magic is true to its name: imagine ELO covering a mid-60s Hollies hit that’s one part Byrds and one part doo-wop. That might sound misguided to the extreme, but somehow the band makes it work, seamlessly. .

Frontman/guitarist Nick Furgiuele’s sardonically exuberant vocals in Get Closer come across as a cross between White Hassle’s Marcellus Hall and that guy from NOFX, punctuated by a starry tremolo-picked guitar solo. Still Alive sounds like a skiffle band taking a stab at the Everly Brothers, with blippy organ tacked on for extra surrealism..

Going Home is a droll doo-wop pop number that if not for the annoying whistling would be a dead ringer for something from the Simon Chardiet catalog. Knee Deep uses acoustic country blues as a stepping-off point for a hypnotically uneasy, mellotron-infused sway, a study in hi/lo frequency contrasts. Likewise, the irrepressible oldtimey swing-flavored Heading South, which might well be a spoof.

Undone takes a turn into carnivalesquely waltzing territory (would somebody in the band please put a muzzle on that whistler?), pushed along by bassist Josh Longino and drummer Jonathan Bragg. It’s You is sort of a three-quarter-time rewrite of Runaway. The album winds up with The Last Trace, a strange mashup of downstroke indie pop and Tex-Mex rock. Two chances to get a dose of this Friday and Saturday night.

Chris Maxwell Plays the Release Show For His Allusively Harrowing New Album at Hifi Bar

Lately, Chris Maxwell has been doing mostly tv and film work Back in the late 90s, he played in popular, skronky punk-funk band Skeleton Key. As you might expect from his background, his songwriting is very eclectic, closer to the former than the latter. He’s got an excellent new album, Arkansas Summer, streaming at Soundcloud and an album release show on March 9 at around 9:30 at Hifi Bar, a space he probably played back in the early zeros when it was Brownies and he was lead guitarist in a late version of White Hassle. As a bonus, his White Hassle bandmate Marcellus Hall, another first-rate, deviously funny songwriter, opens the night at around 8:30.

The album veers between simmering southern soul and Beatlesque psych-pop ballads in a brooding, vividly lyrical Elliott Smith vein. References to a violent chiildhood surface and resurface: this could be autobiographical, or just a good, allusively harrowing, Faulknerian yarn. It opens with the distantly wary trip-hop atmospherics of Strange Shadows, a cautionary tale:

Every time that I look down
Strange shadows on the ground…
You arrived with the perfect script
What did you write with it?
You wrote to your daughter
That you forgot her

The energy rises with the stomping, smoldering soul ballad Have You Ever Killed Yourself and its Elliottt Smith tinges. Imaginary Man also brings Smith to mind, but in more low-key mode with Maxwell’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar under Let It Be piano and swirly late Wilco ambience, a creepy, metaphorically-loaded tale about someone who might not be imaginary at all.

With its wry everything’s-gone-to-hell narrative, the gospel-infused Mess of Things looks back to Maxwell’s time in White Hassle: “St. Nicholas are you feeling dangerous, I’m here for a little angel dust,” its disoolute narrator announces. The title track is an ornate Abbey Road art-rock piano ballad:

A black-eyed susan in the road
Little man threw sticks and stones
And called her names and broke her bones
A big black crow in a robin’s nest
Left us all with a bloody mess
Little man, your days are numbered …

Impossible Knot is next, a briskly shuffling, uneasy minor key traveler’s tale:

Tried to fall asleep, fell into the grave of memories
That I made
But couldn’t keep

Devil Song goes back to surrealist trip-hop, a sardonic sympathy-for-the-devil narrative that Maxwell adds elegant Magical Mystery Tour orchestration to as it builds. Drunk Barber Shaved the World is as funny, and hair-raising, as its title implies, another Elliott Smith-style acoustic-electric shuffle. Maxwell spins a web of fingerpicked acoustic guitar over stark, stygian bowed bass in Things Have Changed For Me, a suspect tale from a guy whose long streak of bad luck and dubious choices doesn’t exactly foreshadow anything better.

Likewise, the understatedly frantic escape anthem Away We Go seems less than promising, a return to the outer-space metaphors that open the album. It closes with its most opaque number, Last Song, a mashup of trip-hop and delta blues that only raises the intrigue: does this troubled story end with the cops surrounding the house after a 9/11 call, or is there more to it than that? All the more reason to spin this mysterious, purist, immensely tuneful album multiple times.

 

 

The Clear Plastic Masks Return to Brooklyn With a Killer New Album

Nashville-based soul-punk band the Clear Plastic Masks have a wryly tuneful, guitarishly slashing new album, Being There – streaming here – and a couple of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 9 PM on Sept 10 and 11. They’re opening for the similar White Denim; it’s a bill where the opener is bound to upstage the headliner. General admission is $20; there’s also a 9/12 show but it’s sold out. It’s a homecoming of sorts from CPM, who first came together in Brooklyn before heading south.

The two bands share influences – classic 60s soul, garage rock and psychedelia –  but CPM do all those styles consistently better. White Denim is one of those bands that will hit one out of the park once in awhile and as a result can be frustrating while you wait for them to pull it together: maybe they should take a listen to their tourmates’ latest release. In the spirit of 60s vinyl singles, CPM like short songs: most of everything here clocks in at around three minutes.

The opening track, In Case You Forgot winds haphazardly through an oldschool 60s soul tune, Matt Menold and Andrew Katz’s guitars bending and tremolopicking as the rhythm section – bassist Eddy DuQuesne and drummer Charlie Garmendia – veers all over the place, bringing to mind mid-80s post-Velvets bands like That Petrol Emotion. The second track, Outcast looks back to what the mid-60s Stones did with Bobby Womack, a period-perfect take on what enthusiastically ambitious British hippies could springboard from a vintage Memphis soul tune. The coy Baby Come On veers back and forth between a shimmery, summery soul ballad and anguished clusters of guitar: it brings to mind two late 90s/early zeros New York bands with an aptitude for classic soul, White Hassle and Douce Gimlet.

Pegasus in Glue wraps dancing Syd Barrett-influenced fuzztone garage psych around a woozy interlude kicked off with a droll Hendrix quote. The slowly swaying Aliens is a grimly funny number set to a slow, catchy gospel-rock tune: the creepy ending caps off the storyline perfectly. A parable about the lure and dangers of religion, maybe?

So Real kicks off as a stomping fuzztone strut, then the band makes half-baked Link Wray out of it, then picks it up again: again, Katz’s tongue-in-cheek, surrealist lyrics and deadpan cat-ate-the-canary vocals draw comparisons to White Hassle’s Marcellus Hall. Interestingly, the album’s best and darkest song, Dos Cobras turns out to be an instrumental, a mashup of Steve Wynn southwestern gothic, organ surf and the early Zombies.

Hungry Cup, a piano-and-vocal ballad, is the album’s weirdest moment, told from the point of view of a girl about to throw up her hands and give up on a guy who can’t pull his act together. It might be a very thinly veiled broadside directed at posers new to Notbrooklyn (i.e. gentrified white areas of formerly ethnically and economically diverse Brooklyn), a mashup of late 60s Stones, Vanilla Fudge and lo-fi swamp-rockers like Knoxville Girls. The album winds up with a couple of slow 6/8 numbers: When the Nightmare Comes, which sounds like the Libertines taking a stab at a Hendrix-style take on soul music, and Working Girl, which could be a shout-out to whores in general, to girls on the train during rush hour, or both. That’s one of this band’s strongest suits: you never really know where they’re coming from, and they have a lot of fun keeping you guessing.

Video Dump Day #2 5/2/13

Damn, the May concert calendar is a whopper. Putting that thing together has become a weeklong project – so much good stuff coming up it’s almost suffocating. Of course, one of the most major and historic and intense events of the year – Wadada Leo Smith‘s three-night stand at Roulette – had to coincide with this project. In the meantime…time to empty the tank with all the freebies and singles and videos that have been kicking around the corners here like dust bunnies.

Here’s the Rotaries’ Before Leaving – a gorgeous, anthemic, singalong janglepop gem to kick off your summer. The vocals could be stronger but the band is kicking. Does anybody hear White Hassle in the distance?

Shannon Wright’s The Caustic Light is a pitchblende hypnotic minimalist Randi Russo style dirge from her forthconing album In Film Sound due out May 7.

Portland, Oregon’s Alelia Diane’s The Way We Fall sounds like Cal Folger Day with a chamber pop band (or a mellotron) – intriguing stuff from her forthcoming album Come Out Swinging due in late June.

If you’ve got a minute, hang with Mike Vial’s Reaching Back til this hypnotic jazz-pop number gets creepy. It reminds a lot of Lee Feldman in darker moments. And the piece de resistance:

“In honor of Obama’s Second Term, Neil Nathan Inc. releases the Jumpstart Music Video off their acclaimed Power 2 The People Concept LP, Sweep the Nation [very favorably reviewed here back in January]. And like any 21st Century profit minded corporation in Earth’s Global Village, they outsourced production to the tiniest of Asian Tigers, the Philippines.

In it, the Obama Twins, Hope and Change, drag race each other in an all out battle to see who will Win the Future. But obstacles abound in the form of  Fearless President Putin, Iranian President Ahmadenijad & His Nuclear Bomb, Angela Merkel & the Euro-Mobile, as well as the Republican Elephant & their radical counterparts, the Tea Party. But do not fret, for help is on the way from Israeli President Netanyahu, Chinese Leader Xi Jinping & His Gang of Dragons, and ultimately America’s Man of Steel, Super Bill Clinton.

Neil says the tune was influenced by Cheap Trick, Guided by Voices, and Iggy Pop, and is giving it away for FREE.”

Tom Shaner’s Long-Overdue Solo Debut: Worth the Wait

For those who’ve followed Tom Shaner’s career since his days in the early zeros fronting Industrial Tepee – the great southwestern gothic rock band that should have been as famous as Calexico or Giant Sand but never was – his new album Ghost Songs, Waltzes and Rock n Roll is long overdue. Ironically, though billed to Shaner solo, it’s far more lush and richly arranged than anything he did with that band, in fact, the best thing he’s ever done. The music blends layers of jangly, twangy, spiky, occasionally searing electric and acoustic guitars over a nimble rhythm section, ornamented with deviously flickering keyboards, mandolin, banjo and the occasional wry electronic effect. Songwise, there are echoes of Steve Wynn, the Byrds, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave in its most pensive moments.

Shaner’s nonchalant, laid-back vocals are sort of a cross between Lou Reed and the Wallflowers’ Jakob Dylan. The songs’ lyrics are terse, cynical and clever: they’ll resonate especially with anyone who’s weathered the same storms as Shaner has during these past few years as the New York he came up in slid closer and closer to New Jersey. Although many of the songs have a dusky desert feel, a familiar urban milieu recurs throughout the album. That factors in heavily on the funniest song here, the deadpan, early Elvis Costello-ish Unstoppable Hipster, as well as the considerably more spare, haunting Downtown Has Done Damage, which reminds of the Church around 1986 or so.

Sinner’s Highway sets a surreal, sordidly Lynchian scene to snarling minor-key rock: a late-period Industrial Tepee tune, it reminds a lot of Steve Wynn, with a wry quote in the solo guitar outro. Another one from that era, Sister Satellite manages to be dreamy yet bracing as its layers of guitar mingle and then surge.Then Shaner evokes another well-known late 90s/early zeros band, White Hassle, with Forever Drug, spiced with tongue-in-cheek samples and hip-hop turntablism.

She Will Shine is crushingly caustic: over punchy, syncopated, Jayhawks-flavored rock, Shaner relates how a girl who couldn’t hack it in the big city is ostensibly leaving for better things in the country, but “when the lid is lifted, everything is shifted…her time is complete, the future is a one-way street.” Rosa Lee, a big concert favorite, works a more pensive, regretful vein.

Shaner pairs Foreverland, a creepy reggae song, with the nebulous, only slightly less creepy psych-folk anthem Silent Parade. Where Grief Becomes Grace, an echoey desert rock dirge, is as broodingly evocative as anything Giant Sand ever did. A cover of Tom Waits’ Cold Water picks up the pace with a gospel-fueled menace, black humor in full effect.

Only slightly less dark colors close the album. Everything Is Silver returns to a romping Elvis Costello vibe: it’s the opposite of what it seems. And My House is Green builds a moody acoustic Velvets ambience. But not everything here is as dark: there’s Sun Girl #2, with its lushly gentle Sunday Morning sway, and Streets of Galway, a lively Irish tune. One of the best albums of 2012, no question. Shaner plays the release show – assuming the subways are back up and running – at the Knitting Factory on Nov 7 at 8:30 PM.

Marcellus Hall At the Top of His Game at Pete’s

Marcellus Hall has a Sunday residency at 8:30 PM at Pete’s Candy Store this July; there are two shows remaining, on the 22nd and 29th. If clever, jangly, Americana-tinged rock with killer hooks and sharp, biting lyrics is your thing, you should see at least one of these. Hall is one of those rare artists who gets better with time: he was good back when he was in Railroad Jerk back in the 90s and then after that with White Hassle, who beat the White Stripes to the bassless garage rock thing by a few years but never got credit for it. Last night his deadpan sardonic wit was in full effect as he and his excellent band – Troy Fannin switching between organ and lead guitar, Damon Smith on bass and Mike Shapiro on drums – ran through a set of new material, a couple of covers and songs from Hall’s excellent 2011 album The First Line.

Since the White Hassle days – the band has been “on hiatus” since about 2005 – Hall’s songs have taken on a richer, more lingering sound, maybe just because he lets the chords ring out, he’s traded in his old Danelectro for an acoustic-electric and has bass in the band now. Speaking of bass, Smith was brilliant all night long, driving the first song with a neatly slurry lick way up the fretboard and staying way up there when the bittersweet chorus kicked in. The second song worked a straight-up garage-funk vein, Fannin and Hall joining forces on the catchy turnaround. A little later they did one that juxtaposed a distantly vintage Britpop verse against a biting chromatically-fueled chorus, with a casually smart, terse soul/blues guitar solo from Fannin. Another built up to a big crescendo with swirly organ and then a walk on the bass way down the scale, all the way to the bottom as the chorus kicked in. Soulmate, a cut that just screams out “college radio hit,” had a typically sarcastic lyric and a Motown-flavored break with just bass and drums.

But the best songs were the funniest ones. Hall has made a career of chronicling the misadventures of people who have their bullshit detectors set to stun: they have zero tolerance for fakeness and indecision, and their romantic adventures suffer badly as a result. The funniest one of these was a wry 6/8 anthem about a girl who’s a total killjoy: “I don’t want a boyfriend, she said with a sigh. I said no problem…I said what about dinner, you don’t have to pay,” Hall deadpanned. But when she put out her own suggestion for a pre-hookup activity, that had to be a dealbreaker – the joke is too good to spoil. The most offhandedly vicious song swayed hypnotically over a simple two-chord vamp as Hall set his sights on Faceboogers and textards:

I’m friends with people who I don’t know
Where does one turn after the afterglow
Please stick around, don’t go away
After this song there’ll be a Q&A
My head is messed up and my mind is undone
You are no one til you’re texting someone

The covers included one that Hall said he would sing in French which turned out to be a pretty basic version of You Never Can Tell which if you didn’t know it, you never would be able to tell that Chuck Berry wrote it. . They closed the set with an audience request, a completely serious, zero-sarcasm, harmony-driven cover of the old country gospel number Satisfied Mind, done as a defiant working person’s anthem. Hall also wasn’t joking that he’d brought a credit card reader for anybody who felt like using plastic to buy a cd, vinyl record or piece of art (Hall is also a highly sought-after illustrator): this was Williamsburg, after all, 2012.